Reading a Book.

Books Here's some pretty common sense but nevertheless useful to be reminded help on how to read books from Clio and the Contemporary, an old fashioned group blog written by historians.

It's supposed to be the university students and only partially makes sense for non-fiction, but a couple of items stood out to me:
"Create a reward system that motivates you. I place a post-it at the end of each chapter so I know approximately how many pages I have left to read. I use these post-its as benchmarks – as mini-motivators to get through my reading. Sometimes I add other motivators, such as a timer to challenge myself to read more expediently—I rarely get the work done within the time limit I set but just having the timer forces me to read more quickly. And, finally, I almost always plan a reward for myself for when I get to a post-it (a small victory!). For example, I’ll tell myself: “when I finish this chapter, I’ll go get a cup of tea” or “when I get through this section, I can eat a cookie” or “when I finish the book, I will take a walk with my dog.”"
Being such a slow reader, I tend to keep to a chapter at a time regime, which is fine for TARGET novelisations, less so for the more esoteric history books.

Dating a Photograph.

History The Library of Congress blog has a series of posts about the photographs in their collection and the latest entry is about dating some of the miscellaneous items by comparing them to what is or isn't there. Utilising an aerial view of their own building, they're able to show that in a city which is constantly in flux, it's entirely possible to pin it down to a decade or two:
"This photo features the Library of Congress Jefferson Building at center, and it’s always good to start with a subject you know well! The Library of Congress campus now consists of three buildings. In addition to the Jefferson Building, completed in 1897, there are the John Adams Building and the James Madison Building. In the detail photo below, the arrows point to the locations where those two buildings will be in the future. The Madison, where the Prints and Photographs Division is, will take up the entire block at lower right. The Adams will be at the right edge, where a few smaller buildings are visible. The oldest of the two is the Adams, which opened to the public January 3, 1939. So, this photo is before 1939."
Although as they say it's such a time consuming process it would be impossible to investigate every item in their collection, I wonder if there'll be a moment in the not too distant future when AI and machine learning may be able to help, following the same processes as this human.

The 231163 Diaries:
Montevallo High School.

History Montevallo is a city in Shelby County, Alabama. Montevallo High School is a of the key part of the community. Back in 1963, it published a school newspaper, the Spotlight, which is available on and allows us to see their poignant reporting on how the school reacted to the assassination of Kennedy.

The first story comes from the front page, above the title.

President's Death Stills, Silences MHS

During the lunch hour the halls of Montevallo High School are usually the scene of gay conversations, laughing couples, and noisy, running steps. But on Friday Nov. 22, conversations were sad; couples sober; and steps almost tip-toe quiet.

At approximately 12:35pm word spread throughout the school that President John F. Kennedy, as he rode in an open car in a parade through the streets of Dallas, Texas, had been the victim of an assassin's bullet.

The news brought transistor radios into action. The television was cut on. Everyone found "somewhere to listen" and to hope quietly that the president would survive.

But at 1:30pm, an already saddened MHS student body and faculty heard the official announcement, "The President is dead."

There's further colour piece on page three:

School Grieves with Nation

Quietly, reverently, Johnny Boyd, Terry Herron, and Rosemary Woolley lowered the school flag to half mast; and in that position "Old Glory," whipped gently in the breeze, seemed to symbolize the bowed heads of a sorrowful nation. On that day, Friday, Nov. 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

When the bell rang at 12:30pm last Friday, we were not aware of the tradedy which had befallen our nation. But as students who left the school grounds for the lunch hour returned and spread the sad news, they were met with shaken misbelief on all sides.

However, as radios and television continued to verify the reality of the assassination, a stunned silence pervaded the school. Most classes that afternoon disregarded their regular activities because of the general concern for the tragic event.

We live and breathe; we dream and plan; our future is ahead. But, unable to watch his children drow to maturity or to see his modern American ideas fulfilled, our President has passed into a "New Frontier."

Also on the front page is an editorial from the school principal:

Tragedy Stuns Nation; Sorrow Forges Unity

(An editorial)

by Guy Milford, Principal

Difficult as it is to do, we are compelled to accept the incredible reality of our president's death Nov. 22.

However we may have disagreed with him from time to time, we know he was a very warm human being of great and good humor, boundless energy and brilliant intellect.

His courage, devotion to God and country and family are unquestioned.

In coming from the first shock of disbelief, perhaps we can go forward and grow into a more mature understanding of our fellow man.

If in our sadness and grief at the tragic events of recent days, we can find the strength within ourselves to wash the hatred from our hearts, we can look with faith towards the future of our country.

Then, our late president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, shall not have died in vain.

Young and Depressed in America.

Books Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation is 25 years old and Anne Thériault has written for Long Reads about what the book has meant for her and why she thinks it was so successful and continues to be:
"What seemed most important to me about Wurtzel’s writing was that she had been messy, and she was willing to detail that mess without apology. Just: here is how I’ve behaved. She offers the reader no contextualizing, no explaining, no objective distance from the events described. I still can’t tell if Wurtzel did this intentionally or not — and, if it’s a device meant to draw readers deep into her own stream of consciousness, she doesn’t always wield it skilfully — but either way, it was a radical departure from how I’d seen women write about themselves. I’d never read a story about a woman engaging in such rambunctious self-destruction that didn’t turn into a morality tale; on the other hand, there was no shortage of stories about men being comparably messy. [link]"
Yes, exactly.  That's what struck me on reading the book, its blinding honesty and lack of fear in presenting the rawness of herself without caveat.  That continued into the sequel More Now Again, about the ritalin fuelled genesis of Bitch, the feminist polemic she wrote in between.  On neither occasion does she come across well, but it's the bravery of exploring her own failings which makes them intensely readable and relatable.

When I discovered the book sixteen years ago, my reaction was to write about it on here as though she'd been someone I'd actually spent time with, as though the book was a conversation we shared (I'd bought all three books at Music Zone in Manchester which explains the references to that city) (the science fiction writers would have course represent the Doctor Who novels I'd been reading in that period).  I mean it's fine as pseudo intellectual exercises go.  It's one of the few blog posts from back then which I actually remember writing.

But it fits within the style of this blog back in 2003, far more personal, when I felt more comfortable talking about myself.  As I've said since, as soon as someone you know talks about something they've read here, it's done.  It's much easier to be reveal yourself when you can't imagine the face of someone actually reacting to what they're reading.  That's another reason why Wurtzel's books seemed so incredible.  She talks about people who will inevitably read her words and not always in the best light.

Anyway, to celebrate this literary milestone and commemorate how things used to be, here's something I've never mentioned on the blog before.  Back in 2017, I wrote about my first kiss.  What I didn't include is that that has been my only kiss, that stupid, sloppy, drunken smacker lasting a couple of seconds from my post-uni days is the only time I've pressed lips with anyone.  Of course that implies a range of other logical revelations, but let's just stick to that one for starters, not that there's much else to add.  At least, not right now.

Thanks for Darren for sending me the article.  I bet you weren't expecting this.

"A twice-weekly serial set in the exciting world of League Football."

TV Whilst there's probably lots to say about how lawmakers on both sides of the atlantic are finally beginning to tippex out some of the horrors we endured in 2016, there's little point in my simply repeating the words of much more informed people.

Instead, here's a link to a useful distraction as Ludicrously Niche investigates the connections between Doctor Who and 60s drama United!:
"Monday 4 October 1965, 7pm, then, and the very first episode of United!, The Kingpin, is broadcast, and already we're off to a good start: the show itself was created, and naturally the very first episode was written, by one Brian Hayles, who just six months later would have his first ever Doctor Who story, The Celestial Toymaker, broadcast (2 to 23 April 1966). Hayles would go on to contribute five more serials between then and the end of the Jon Pertwee era in 1974, all but one of which featured his most famous creation, the Ice Warriors. The first episode was directed by John Davies, who directed a single Who serial: The Macra Terror, transmitted in March 1967."
The show itself feels incredibly ambitious for the time.  Sadly the whole thing was wiped so we'll never be able to compare how Malcolm Hulke's writing on the two series compared (unless the scripts are at Perivale - perhaps someone could go and have a look).

Now I'm going back to waiting for what's sure to be an explosive Newsnight.